"if only because it's impossible to give the worst performance in a film co-starring both Patsy Kensit and David Bowie"
Listen you guys, cut out the rough stuff or I'll feed you to the lions.
Unfairly chastised in some quarters for being a kiddie friendly King Kong, Mighty Joe Young is as charming as an Autumnal day. Many of the team from King Kong reteam to make this film, and undoubtedly it's pretty much the same plotting only with a different resolution.
However, the effects work is still magical, harking back to a time when geniuses like Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen sweated buckets to make the magic move on the screen. Mighty Joe, the huge Gorilla of the title, is beautifully realised, full of expressions and emotions, he even has time for some sense of humour traits.
Action is never far away, with models and sets destroyed with brute force, while plenty of beings get flung about to emphasise the madness of it all. Narratively like Kong there's still themes of greed and ignorance, the tampering with Mother Nature a big mistake, which all leads to a thrilling finale that in turn leads to something to savour.
Kiddie Kong? Who cares! A wonderful film of skill and guile, of charm and brains. Go Joe Go! 8/10
I never knew a crooked road could look so straight.
The Bribe is directed by Robert Z. Leonard and written by Marguerite Roberts. It stars Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, Vincent Price and John Hodiak. Music is by MiklÃ³s RÃ³zsa and cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg.
Federal agent Rigby (Taylor) is assigned to the island of Carlotta to investigate the illegal trafficking of war-surplus aircraft parts. He quickly finds out that it's not just the weather that is hot...
Frustrating! Out of MGM, The Bribe bites off more than it can chew. On one hand you have a cast guaranteed to either make you swoon or hiss at, on the other it's a cheaply staged production coasting on the star power and high end technical credits.
Everything about the piece screams out that the execs put all the money into the casting, the hiring of a master musical composer and a cinematographer of some standing. On the page, the realisation of such, it's laborious, needlessly convoluted and really rather dull. It's no surprise to find during research that Taylor himself felt it was one of the worst films he ever made! It all looks so fake, from the crude back screen projections and spliced scenes from elsewhere, to the backlot set that looks about as close to a warm tropical island as an igloo does.
On the plus side is Ruttenberg's photography, superb in contrasts and shadowy whiles (the slats are amazing), while Taylor's dry narration really engages, it's these aspects that explains why the film has found its way into some film noir bibles. Gardner and Taylor sizzle with sexuality, their on screen affair being played out for real off screen - much to the consternation of one Barbara Stanwyck. Laughton sweats and limps a lot whilst making a weasel look honourable, Price does the twirling moustache villainy he was so great at, while Hodiak shows good pathos as a drunk clearly in over his head with all aspects of his life.
Fans of the stars get good value, but this has to go down as a wasted opportunity. It failed at the box office and ultimately - in spite of some splendid film noir tints - it's not hard to see why. 5.5/10
Here comes a billion dollar campfire. At least it's good for something.
The second of the Mars based box office bombs released in 2000, Red Planet is maybe - just maybe - worth a revisit by some who were irritated by it back on first viewing. Once knowing that this is not going to be some action packed alien movie, that it's a survivalist drama that tips its hat to 1950s sci-fi schlock, that cares about its characters, then there's a decent popcorner experience to be had here.
This is not to say it's a genius entry in the sci-fi pantheon, because it's not, the same problems still exist; Terence Stamp is woefully under used (seriously they could have got any low paid character actor to play his role), some things either don't make sense or are left unanswered, and of course it still drags in the middle as the boys chatter away on Mars whilst Carrie Anne-Moss is up at base station fretting and suffering erectus nippleus.
Yet there's fun to be had, some nutty science marries up with nice photography and splendid set design, and the makers know what sort of picture they want to make. Where Mission to Mars sunk under the weight of its own pretensions - trying to go all elegiac and important, Red Planet nudges and winks and asks you along for the ride. So get on board and take it for what it is, a pretentious free zone with good human drama at the core. 6.5/10
We're out of miracles.
Russell Crowe would of course come to be better known elsewhere (filmicly) in this year, but what of his other release in 2000? Proof of Life is a blender, a picture that is in part thriller, part romance, part drama and part observation on a very real life problem - that of kidnapping for ransom. So many genres to tackle means that invariably Taylor Hackford's film feels over stuffed, pushing the running time to two hours and fifteen minutes, it is this that hurts it. A shame because if trimmed of the pointless filler and drawn out sequences then there is a very efficient (ok, maybe routine is a better word here) and well acted piece on show. The drama and tension (sexual and perilous threat) is all building towards the action packed finale, which, while well mounted, doesn't seem an adequate pay off for the number of extended chatty scenes we have had to tolerate to get there. Nice tip of the hat to a classic at the end, though. 6/10
We've got a problem here. There are more bad guys than we've got bullets.
It's a buddy buddy action movie, one that feels more 80s than 90s, with that it has all the pluses and minuses that comes with such genre staples. Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee pair up to take on The Yakuza, Dolph has a very personal reason for tracking and killing the Yakuza leader. They are an odd pair who must get over their initial differences to complete their mission. Sound familiar? Well it is, because it can be seen in a whole host of other action buddy buddy movies.
The acting is sub-standard but the action is well constructed, which at the end of the day is what action fans require for a rollicking good time. Some of the dialogue is too cheese worthy to even pass as acceptable - and this in a genre that often demands it as a requisite, while the overt homoerotic undercurrents are either meant as tongue in cheek? Or an attempt by the makers to make some sort of action movie statement?
Is it fun? Absolutely, and that's not just because of the ridiculous trousers Lundgren often wears (seriously, a leather jacket and Oxford bags?), while the colour photography is sparkling (Mark Irwin), but you have to have a taste for corn and cheese to get the most from this host. 5/10
Gunpowder & Gold!
The Wild Westerners is directed by Oscar Rudolph and written by Gerald Drayson Adams. It stars James Philbrook, Nancy Kovack, Duane Eddy and Guy Mitchell. Music is by Ross DiMaggio and Eastman Color cinematography is by Gordon Avil.
It is what it is, a traditional Western made with a modest budget that tries to do the best it can. It's 1864 in the Montana Territory and some outlaw types are easily robbing gold shipments. How come it's so easy? This is something Marshal McDowell (Philbrook) and his trusty team must try to answer before it's too late - especially since the Marshal's newly "acquired" bride (Kovack) is becoming a key figure.
Oddly enough there is quite a bit going on here for a "C" grade production, though the core thematic drive involves outlaws who are made known to us from the off, rendering the shifty - cum - mysterious shenanigans around town as kind of redundant! There's also a thread that involves trying to keep the Cheyenne off of the war path, a burgeoning romance that has the most auspicious of beginnings, and some jealousies and macho posturings. The acting is a mixed bag of the average and the poor, the production value a blend of the nice (outdoor photography at Lone Pine) and the cheap (wonky and poorly designed sets), while there are no surprises in store off of the page. Yet there are far worse Westerns out there that had bigger budgets, it's brisk and has good action, a couple of good guy/bad guy characters to cheer and boo respectively, and Duane Eddy's title guitar music is quality.
Not one to rush out to see, but some charm and minor qualities stop it from being in stinker hell. 5/10
The Bounty Killer is directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and written by Ruth Alexander and Leo Gordon. It stars Dan Duryea, Rod Cameron, Audrey Dalton, Richard Arlen, Buster Crabbe, Fuzzy Knight and Johnny Mack Brown. Music is by Ronald Stein and cinematography by Frederick E. West.
Willie Duggans (Duryea) arrives in the Wild West and quickly becomes exposed to its violence. Finding that big money can be made by bringing in bad guys, he takes up arms and plans to make enough money to set him up for a future with Carole Ridgeway (Dalton), a beautiful saloon singer. But the job isn't easy, physically, emotionally and mentally.
It's a film that asks some forgiveness from Western fans, you are asked to accept Duryea being too old for the role, some iffy production issues, coincidences and some giant leaps of faith. Yet if you can do that and just roll with its high energy willingness to keep the Western traditional in the mid 60s? Then this is better than a time waster.
Ultimately it's a message movie about the cycle of violence and how said violence can corrupt the most amiable of minds. The screenplay deftly brings in to the equation the roles of normal outsiders who don't mind violence as long as it is for their own ends, something which brings the best sequence in the film to the fore and lets Duryea once again show his class. Backing the superb Duryea is a roll call of Western movie veterans, all of which - with the leading man - make for a reassuring presence at our Oater dinner table. Neatly photographed out of the Corriganville and Glenmoor ranches in California, this may be a "B Western" trying to keep the traditional Western afloat in the mid 60s, but it's honourable in intent and entertains the Western faithful royally. 7/10
Why did the Beaver cross the road?
If you are sitting down to watch a film called Zombeavers - and reading any sort of synopsis out there - then you should know what you are getting into. It's going to be tacky, cheeky, bonkers, perhaps cheap and firmly aimed at a section of the horror movie faithful who enjoy such nutty and bloody delights.
Zombeavers is not a great film of course, but for the sub-genre of horror it sits in it's actually better than many bigger comedy/horror productions that have been churned out in the last three decades. Don't get me wrong, it's no Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, but there's a whole bunch of fun to be had watching the makers purposely tick of the clichÃ©s and requisite requirements for such cinematic fare. Some adroit gags exist in among the the booby flesh and animatronic chaos, with the dialogue often as razor sharp as the teeth on the disturbed genus Castor beings.
It is never going to be making any horror fan's best of list, and only the infected of mind would heartily recommend it as a must see. But it is a fun picture if you are in the mood to leave your brain at the Beaver Lodge. 6/10
Young girl has a past trauma to deal with, so she applies to be a camp counsellor. Nice. But to pass the entry exam for being said counsellor she has to spend two nights alone on a remote island, thus proving her metal. Amazingly she's not as alone as is meant to be...
OK! The premise is weak, both in terms of logic and redundancy of formula, but that isn't a problem for those after a good compact scare picture to pass the time of day with. The trouble with Alone (AKA: Solo) is that it's just too dull for its own good, resorting to telegraphed boo-jumps at time scripted junctures. After a while you kind of find yourself wishing it had something more to offer on a psychological basis. The reveal of the threat is tedious, the execution of the last quarter equally so, but the performance of young Annie Clark in the lead and some efficient chill moments makes this just about passable as a time waster. 5/10
The first milestone Carry On movie.
A flu epidemic has reduced the local police station down to a skeleton crew. Hope arrives in the form of four recruits - - that's no hope mind you...
Carry On Constable introduced the wonderful Sid James to the series, he would become one of the most beloved actors to Carry On film fans. Ironically "Constable" finds James somewhat removed from the type of character he would become known for, it's a restrained role and showcases his acting abilities as an official figure type, the glue binding the whole play together.
The fourth film in the Carry On series retains the more genteel comedy factors that had imbued the previous three outings, though this would be the first to show nudity! Four policemen's bums gleaming bright! A scene that provides a splendid anecdote in Kenneth Williams brilliant book, Just Williams (I urge anyone interested in classic film/TV/radio/stage to check it out).
Plot basically pitches the four recruits, Williams, Leslie Phillips, Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Connor (brilliant as usual as a superstitious sort) into a number of chaotic physical situations mined for laughs. Back at the station Sgt. Frank Wilkins (James) is pulling his hair out at the ineptitude of his new charges - and that of his ignoramus boss, Inspector Mills (Eric Barker). Joan Sims is on hand to steam the collar of Kenny Connor, just as Phillips lusts after any female form, while Hattie Jaques provides a glimpse of her tender character acting side as the station's sensible soul.
There's some drag dressings played for good laughs, a whole bunch of scenes where the not so intrepid coppers get taken for fools, and a few deftly scripted lines guaranteed to raise a smile. Elsewhere there's a raft of super character actors in cameos who beautifully portray the classic eccentricities of the Brits of the era, so take a bow Irene Handl, Esma Cannon and Joan Hickson (wonderful as a posh drunken lush). Never riotous or bawdy, "Constable" is still a fondly thought of entry in the long running series, as are most of the black and white productions. It shows a group of film makers very much of the time and using it to the max. Lovely. 8/10